All the way from America comes circus with meaning…
Hello Nicole, first thing’s first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I was born in Staten Island, New York. Grew up in New Jersey. Live in Philadelphia. And am Currently in Edinburgh.
Can you tell us about your training?
I was introduced to Gymnastics at 3 yers old and continued to pursue the sport competitively until my matriculation at Temple University in Philadelphia, USA. Graduating university I left gymnastics and focused on getting my master degree in health psychology from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. During my time at graduate school, the circus came to Philadelphia. I went. The next day I decided to go to circus school. I was accepted at the New England Center of Circus Arts were I majored in trapeze and minored in partner acrobatics. From there I did a 2 year residency in Montreal, Canada training with coaches from the Ecole National de Cirque. And now, I travel all around the world to share, teach, and create with other artists.
When did you first realise circus was your passion?
When I sat in the front row as a 23 year old. In that moment I felt art-less. I felt detached from my body. I missed moving and I missed sweating. I looked at the performers below me and I thought to myself “how incredibly beautiful”. It just seemed like the perfect fusion of art and sport.
Can you tell us about Almanac Dance Circus Theater?
Almanac Dance Circus theater in an ensemble based collective located in Philadelphia. We like to define ourselves as storytellers. Each one of Almanac’s members come from a different place of specialty: circus, theater, dance, clown, music, writing. We combine our forces and make something strong and beautiful.
What does your perfect Sunday afternoon look like?
Well… It has to be a sunny day. I want to wake up with a coffee and a chocolate muffin while I watch Shameless. Then I would like to laugh with my sister on the phone until she tells me she has to go to the bathroom so we have to hang up. Then, I would love to pick out a funky outfit…grab my partner.. and spend the day outside. Get lost in Philadelphia. Eat somewhere I never ate before… find friends randomly on the street… allow them to distract me into a new adventure. I would love to end my Sunday watching a movie and after walk around the block to exhaust whatever energy I have left. Then..Finally… hold my parter as we watch anime to fall asleep.
You are bringing a piece called oxo moongirl to the Edinburgh Fringe Fringe, can you tell us about it?
Yes, I am bringing my solo show xoxo moongirl to Edinburgh. The show is a blend between a circus fantasia and my real life experience of growing up in a house with domestic violence. Ben Grinberg (director) and myself attempted to make an ugly story and a somewhat scary one.. into something beautiful…. in my opinion we did just that.
Moongirl is your co-creation with Ben Grinberg, who is also directing the piece – how did you & he meet?
After I graduation circus school I cam back to Philadelphia and taught a workshop at the Pig Iron School of Theater, where Ben was completing his final year of school. After Ben graduated he created a show called Communitas which included a ton of acrobatics… he ask if I would be the acrobatic consultant for the show.. I said yes… and never left.
What have been the creative processes behind xoxo moongirl, from inception to realisation?
I was in Mexico teaching and directing at one of Mexico Cities largest circus schools, Casa de Artes Circo Contemporanea, and I was spending a lot of time alone. I started to think maybe I could make a solo show…what story would I want to tell? I started to think in all sorts of images. I wanted flying dinner tables… eggs everywhere… red sweaters that unraveled.. mirrors.. and milk. I told Ben. He said “ok…. that seems like a lot”. We decided to get in the rehearsal room and play… And what came out… the story that was hiding in me… was the story about my messy family… about the abuse I saw… about how I love adventure…. about how I love story telling and sharing. and then… there was xoxo moongirl.
Domestic abuse is not a typical theme for circus, how has it been going down with audiences?
This was very scary for many reasons. I didn’t want people to feel bad for me or think “oh poor her”. I didn’t want to trigger those who have experiences violence or domestic abuse. And, I did’t want to seem callous or insensitive because the show involves a lot of clown and humor. But, I am lucky. I have had the experience of talking to many audience members some who have had experience with abuse, some who have no relation to violence, some who have been in an identical situation to my mother. The feeling that I get from them is that I and my team have done a good job. People are messy. I am messy. The public seem to understand that and resonate with that message. One thing that I hear from audiences is that circus is something that requires discipline, physical strength, courage in the face of fear. So on a basic level, circus is a pretty good metaphor for what it takes to overcome domestic abuse situations. Then I think we’ve done a pretty good job connecting specific circus apparatus with specific feelings and characters within the show, so that they don’t feel like they come out of nowhere, but are an integral part of the narrative. Handstands are a way of processing a traumatic moment, the silks become a world my mother enters when she is drunk and on ambien, and the trapeze is about transformation and a returning to the ground to face what needs to be faced.
You’ve got 20 seconds to sell xoxo moongirl on the streets of Edinburgh …
xoxo moongirl is a story about a girl, her experience with domestic violence, and her flight to the moon to escape and prevail. If you ever felt like an underdog or unheard… I think you should come…